Townsend Bell is no stranger to any facet of the world of motorsports. He’s been behind the wheel of just about everything from IndyCars to sports cars. He’s taken wins and championships across the globe. He’s even been in front of the camera, both behind the wheel and as an expert race analyst.
But at X Games Munich, Bell will add yet another bullet point to his racing resume: Global Rallycross driver. He’ll make his rallycross debut in the doubleheader weekend, driving the #7 Royal Purple Ford Fiesta for OMSE2. In advance of his new opportunity, Bell sat down to answer some questions for the fans at home:
First things first—what inspired you to come to Global Rallycross?
Just watching it on X Games, like everybody else. I saw guys like Tanner Foust and Kenny Brack, Travis Pastrana, obviously, and I thought it was a really cool format. The cars looked incredible. So I started researching it a little bit. The rest of the year I’m pretty busy, but there was a weekend where I didn’t have anything going on here, and I thought “man, it’d be fun to get out there to Munich and do it.”
I got in touch with Andreas, did a little testing with him, and was able to get everything together. We’ve got Royal Purple as a sponsor—those guys, I’m just getting to know them, and they’re racers, they’re very cool guys. It was just kind of a perfect storm, you know?
Most fans know you as a successful open-wheel driver, but your career has never been limited to just that. Do you have any experience driving multi-surface or off-road vehicles?
I’ve ridden motocross a lot, just for fun. I love dirtbikes. So I have a little experience jumping, and all of that, riding in dirt. But in terms of rally car, I’ve probably got about 40 minutes total seat time in testing—which is more than Scott Speed had, but not a lot. So I’ve got a lot to learn. I just come into this with a lot of enthusiasm, eyes wide open, and listening for any tips and looking for anything I can pick up to improve.
You’ve adapted to different forms of racing before, moving from open wheel racing to sports cars and now to rallycross. Is there a secret to switching from one discipline to another without spending too much time getting comfortable?
I think it’s just being very candid with the people you’re working with. If you’ve got questions, ask, and (I) don’t assume that anything I’ve done before is going to help me, necessarily. My goal is to just be really in tune with trying to pick up as many little things as I can and to piece it all together as quickly as possible, because the track time is very limited.
You’re no stranger to racing in prestigious events—you’ve been in the 12 Hours of Sebring and Indianapolis 500 just this year. Where does X Games rank on that scale, and how does it compare?
It’s just really cool! You think of X Games—obviously you think of rally cars, but since X Games has been around, you also think of Best Trick, or Step Up, or Speed and Style, or the halfpipe, or Tony Hawk, or whatever. I’ve got two boys who are ten and seven years old, so the highlight for me is being able to tell them that dad’s going to do X Games, because with a young audience, I think it counts for a lot. And it’s just—what a cool thing to be a part of.
If you would have told me 20 years ago that I would have been a part of X Games, I would have said “in what?” It’s great that rallycross has really become a main fixture of the series now.
You mentioned that you’ve done some testing in advance of this weekend. What are some of your impressions about the cars?
I got a quick joyride in Vegas last year in one of the Supercars, one of the Fords—I think it was Deegan’s car. And I’ve had two chances to drive the GRC Lites car, which is the new feeder series and is really a fantastic car. I encourage anybody that’s even remotely interested in rallycross to go research GRC Lites and have a look. That gives me a lot of confidence, knowing that I at least spent some time in that car, feel reasonably comfortable with the dynamics, and now to come back and drive the Supercar again, I hope that helps a lot.
Do you have any sort of expectations for yourself in your first GRC event? And if all goes well, can we expect to see you back in the series sooner than later?
My expectation is, again, just to learn as quick as I can. Obviously I want to make the main event, but I think it’s going to be a challenge just when you look at the names, the experiences, and the credentials of the guys I’m racing with. But regardless of how it goes, I absolutely will be looking for further opportunities to come and race again.